|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Vanilla Ware||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus USA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 22, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
June 28, 2007 - When gamers wish that there was a return to the classic style of gaming, they really should look around them before they say there is nothing in that same vein anymore. Those of us who complain about the 3D realms and the formulaic normality of games these days, should take notice of titles that stretch beyond that which is normal. More importantly, we should always look across the ocean before we say that no one is original anymore or that no one understands classic venues anymore. A perfect example of a game returning to basics is Odin Sphere from Atlus, and let me tell you it reminds you of why side scrolling games captured the gaming world so easily and for so long.
Odin Sphere is for all intents and purposes a side scrolling action game. However, there is something unique about this game that even now I cannot quite put my finger on. Whatever it is, I can say this, even if you object to the graphics, gameplay, and the limiting side scrolling aspect of the game, you will not be able to turn away from this game until you have put in your time with the impressive characters that force you to attach yourself to them. Even in games today, there are few instances that you will walk away and feel an emotional attachment to characters of the pixilated worlds of video games.
Fortunately for gamers looking for that drama and heartfelt attachment in today's gaming standards Odin Sphere will deliver in spades. Instead of giving us one storyline with all sorts of convoluted characters stories, we are given five separate characters that equal the same convoluted stories of other classic RPG tales. I loved the aspect of separate stories lines and how the characters interweave in order to cease the impending prophecy. The only downfall to the different characters is that once you have chosen the book in an attic you must finish "reading" that book before moving on. Even though each character controls the same, their back stories and path during the game are different.
Gwendolyn is the daughter of the Demon Lord Odin and is a Valkyrie princess of the Kingdom Ragnanival. Her story begins with a death and a declaration of need to become that which her father seems to want from his children. She is strong and valiant on the battlefield never turning away from the impossible numbers she may face. Velvet is the last surviving heir of the Valentine Kingdom. When Valentine fell, she retreated to the woods of Elrit and became the forest witch. Now, she spends her journeys trying to piece prophecies together in order to halt the impending Armageddon. Her hatred for her father, Odin, is unbounded due to her belief that it is his actions that took her mother's life. Oswald, the feared shadow knight and dragon slayer, was orphaned at an early age. He was taken in by the fairy queen and now lives to serve no matter the dangers of his own life. His skill with blade is known and feared throughout the kingdom. Cornelius is a prince who holds highly idealistic visions of justice that may be too much for the real world around him. He was mystically transformed into a beast and ran away from his homeland. His love for one of the other characters is hidden for his fear of rejection because of the monster he has become. Mercedes, princess of the Fairy Kingdom, thrives on proving herself in the same vein as her mother. Mercedes is fighting to prove her leadership and provide the welfare of Ringford the way her mother once did. Already, you know only a fraction of the intertwining storylines to play through.
Each one of the characters will carry a weapon that holds a special material called psypher. These weapons are used to suck up the phozons that enemies will leave behind. There are other ways to collect phozons, but defeating enemies is the main means of collection. Each weapon the character carries will level up according to the amount of phozons that have been collected. As you might be able to guess, increasing your psypher's level strengthens your attack, as well as providing you with new magic to defeat your enemies. The magical attacks used will consume the phozons you have built up, but will have no affect on your level. If collecting phozons and building the power behind your psypher is not enough, then how about some alchemy? For those of us who are familiar with the RPG genre, alchemy will be something of a walk in the park. For those whi are unfamiliar, the only advice that I can give you is to pay close attention to the tutorial. For those who need to explore their culinary needs, there is also a robust cooking system for items to replenish you characters health in the midst of battle.
The combat system is honestly as simplistic as the graphics of the game. For the button mashers among us, we are welcomed with a circular map with limited exit points to fill the battlefields with the carcasses of our enemies. While the combat is reliant on a few buttons for you to master, this is gladly accepted to enable you to absorb the beautiful graphics of the game. Yes, this is a 2D side scrolling, and yes, this is hard pressed to rival the market as far as graphics go, but anyone, and I mean anyone, who takes a moment or two to truly appreciate the beauty of the game will. As an artist myself, I can say that the painstaking measures taken to capture the original idea behind the hand drawn characters and environments is a wondrous achievement we all should take notice of. The sounds of the game could have been approached differently, but considering the growing normal offerings of over the top acting in video games, this one does well at not over doing it much.
Odin Sphere is honestly a game that must be experienced in order to truly decide whether it is a game for you. I know that in a growing market of every genre imaginable that sometimes lesser-known games fall to the sidelines and are not enjoyed until much later in their gaming life. Hence, titles like Shadow of the Colossus are lost in the mix and only a few gamers in the beginning get to appreciate the game without impending fanboys and would be supporters. Odin Sphere is such a game. If you are looking for that one game that separates itself from the stylings of the market, then this is the one. Even if you are quite content with the market, this title at least deserves the once in a blue moon shot if for no other reason than the ideals behind it.
CCC Project Coordinator